Zwarte Piet protesters break up council meeting in Emmen

Protesters in the council chamber. Photo: Noordernieuws ANP
Protesters in the council chamber. Photo: Noordernieuws ANP

Police have arrested 12 Extinction Rebellion activists who interrupted a council meeting in Emmen to protest against the presence of blackface Zwarte Piets during the upcoming Sinterklaas celebrations.

The climate activists were carrying a banner saying ‘No Zwarte Piet! Including Emmen!’ and said the aim was to show solidarity with anti-racism movements.

According to one of the demonstrators, Sinterklaas may no be longer accompanied by a blackface helper in Emmen itself, but the surrounding villages uphold the tradition, local broadcaster RTV Drenthe reported.

A council spokesman said Emmen does not subsidise ‘Sinterklaas activities which involve blackface Piets. We are talking to Sinterklaas committees about how they should look and we allow for opinions from all sides,’ the spokesman said.

Blackface Piets, who had been a feature of Sinterklaas celebrations for decades but are widely deemed racist, have largely disappeared in most towns and cities in the Netherlands. The character has been largely replaced by the Sooty Piet, whose dirty face refers to the story that they come down a chimney to deliver presents.

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